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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (ER) in Kigali during visit of Vice President to Rwanda

February 23, 2017

Speaker 1: We will take it forward with initial remarks from the Secretary and then we will take up the questions.

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Good afternoon friends. We come to the end of the two day visit to Rwanda and now preparing for the next phase. Going by the media reports and what you all have written, I noticed you all have covered till yesterday’s lunch time, all the reports have come like the Hotel Rwanda visit and the symbolism involved etc. has already been talked about.

After that in the afternoon the Vice President had called on President Paul Kagame, this was at the State House. The discussions were held on basically his own experiences in Vibrant Gujarat. The fact that we declared to be strategic partners and ideas on how to give substance to that strategic relationship. He was very welcoming of Indian investments here. He was very welcoming of the fact that Vice President decided to come within a month of his own visit to India which he appreciated and we in turn i.e. Vice President wanted to find about his great governance model. Obviously he has done something very well and in fact he acknowledged not once but twice that he hasn’t seen a better capital anywhere including in the developed world. The fact that the country which was mired in discrimination and ethnic war, genocide, in 15 – 16 years it all became history. It is an amazing turn around where you have a sort of co-existence but people are actually contributing in the reconciliation process. It was something that VP wanted to find out from him and we did get briefing on what he is doing and how he is doing through his own programs.

In fact President Kagame will be doing an unique experiment, something like what Prime Minister Modi does i.e. Chintan Sabha with all the secretaries. He does his own retreat with all the ministers and ambassadors etc. The only difference is here people do get sacked on the spot also if they have not performed during the year.

You see the local governance model here is something that we need to learn and we have engaged various agencies here to see how they are doing it so well because some of these things have great relevance for us since some of the schemes that India has started like Swachh Bharat or Smart Cities. For example Kigali has an agreement with Eindhoven and Singapore. Eindhoven is a smart city in Holland. These are two countries and local government bodies that they are working very closely with in developing whatever they have developed.

For us the important aspect was that India’s assistance and help was acknowledged. We have substantially contributed to develop the hydro-power potential and the good thing is that we are talking about the next phase of Nyabarongo Power Project which was done with our assistance. Government of India has also taken decision to offer concessional credit of 80 million USD for a road project.

At the Senate, along with the Head of Senate and other senators including their head and vice chief of the foreign affairs committee, their focus was basically that they emphasized the shared values that they have with India both in terms of democracy and the aspirations that we have in terms of development and they also emphasized their determination to succeed, which I think was a great message which they thought that they shared with us. They look forward to much greater parliamentary collaboration with us.

Another interesting point which came out was that their parliament has 66 percent women representatives. This is a unique case, while through law only 30 percent is reserved for women. They enquired about the state of our Women Reservation Bill. Vice President gave them the status that Rajya Sabha has passed it and it is still being debated in the Lok Sabha. But against a 30 percent requirement by law there is actually 66 percent presence and the other 36 percent who come in through general contest. So that is good take away for us and of course the two women MPs that we have with us on the visit were very excited, they thought that this is a great model that we should follow. Opinions were divided in that group also but that is something which impressed all of us.

In other obvious potential areas we feel that tourism ranks very high. They would be starting a direct flight as we have signed a bilateral air access agreement. Though it is beyond five thousand kms so for Rwanda and most African states, we follow new civil aviation policy which is open air policy that we have for countries beyond 5000 kms but still a bilateral air access agreement has to be signed which was done yesterday. They hope to start their services from Kigali to Mumbai from 3rd of April.

We on our turn have facilitated movement of people because once you have airlines, you have to also have a visa regime which encourages tourists to go. In the most recent enlargement of the e-visa scheme, Rwanda has been put on e-visa scheme. The decision to do this has been taken and it will take another 10 or 15 days because once you actually put a country for e-visa, you also need to modify the software so that the people can apply. I am told that it should happen by mid of March so I think it will be well in time for the airline services to be starting from 3rd of April.

In addition we also signed the visa fee agreement and we do hope that visas for the tourists would be eased further. I am told during my interaction with the authorities here that they have a fairly easy system for providing tourist visas, it is trouble free and they get it done rather quickly, but they will have to make efforts to sell the destinations here to Indian tourists. They are also very keen that besides the tourists they also want to get Bollywood producers to come here because they obviously have learned that Indian tourists tend to follow their film actors and actresses to the filming locations. New Zealand was the best example how it really burst into our tourism scene after the famous movie Kaho Na Pyaar Hai of actor Ritik Roshan, just like earlier Mauritius and Switzerland were earlier tourist destinations from India. So they would like to replicate that.

Businesses of Rwanda are very keen to have our Pharmaceutical companies manufacturing here. We also feel that there is a potential here because it gives access to the regional market. Healthcare is something for which they rely on India but not everyone can afford to visit India so they want if some pharma majors could open hospitals here.

If you go by what the standards of presence of Indian academics in the University of Rwanda here, we still have 18 professors so it should be easy to recruit doctors also to come and work in hospitals but they are not sure as that is something that hospitals have to look at.

Education is another sector where we can think of private investments at every level. DPS is already present in Uganda. DPS or any other schools can open up here, I think it can become a good regional center. There is an Indian entrepreneur who is trying to set up a medical institute here and he is very hopeful to complete it in a year or so. Along with that they also want that if we can start vocational training centers through some private investment. Their focus is on science and technology and innovation.

Good news is that FICCI has decided that they would set up a science innovation growth center here. The exhibition that FICCI organized really focused on innovation. They brought 11 proven innovators from India from social sectors like health, waste management, waste to energy, renewable energy and agriculture. We hope that they would create a good business model which can be replicated here through local partners.

For me personally, I thought it was a visit which we also had a lot to learn from actually what is happening here in terms of city governance maintenance. You know this country has a policy of no plastic bags for seven years now and you cannot see a scrap of plastic anywhere. At the airports when you come in, they exchange your plastic bags because everybody does carry plastic bags, so they take it away and provide a bag with disposable material which is bio-degradable to carry your stuff. They have implemented this and I think it has been quite a success.

Other good learning from this country would be, for any diverse country, the way they have done reconciliation for inter-ethnic intermingling, giving away the concept of maturitarian rule. Here you see that actually it is being governed by the minority i.e. if you look at numbers. Rwandans have done a simple lesson that they are focusing on their cultural and linguistic similarity that binds them together rather than what they were told divided them. So that is something that the President also made a point in telling us. It was a conscious policy of colonizers to start dividing them based on their differences. If you went to the genocide museum you must have seen that they started classifying them into different ethnicities and started injecting the ideas of differences rather than the unity.

I have already told you about women representation. Regarding corruption, they said that they take pride in having zero tolerance for corruption across the board. Not only that the government told us but our own interaction with others makes us believe that actually there is very little corruption in this country.

From a situation of great conflict, it has made a turnaround in 15-16 years and it has become shining star in Africa and a model around the world.

If you have seen the joint statement, it’s a very substantive joint statement. You get all these sincere elements of conversations that we had. From our perspective the two things that have been highlighted are their own experiences with India’s development partnership model and the need to do more and other is while they don’t have terrorism problem, but they do understand India’s terrorism problem so there is a very strong paragraph on terrorism also and the various concerns that we have on terror in various forms, sanctuaries etc.

I will stop here. We have the High Commissioner and Secretary with us and we will take some questions from you.

Question from BTi: It has been a very fruitful visit as it appears to be but you said that there are couple of areas where India could engage more and given the sanitation level of the city and the Swachh Bharat and Smart City projects, could we be looking at, in near future, an actual cooperation wherein two cities could be collaborating may be at municipal and national and international level?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: As MEA we will take suggestions. We will try and send delegations of people who are involved in developing our own smart city models, people who are heading the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and may be also from Andhra Pradesh because Chandra Babu Naidu is setting up a Capital. He of course has Singapore as a partner but it’s always good to look at other models also and how people have achieved it. So yes MEA would definitely encourage this sort of interaction. I hope our delegations can come and see for themselves what has been achieved here.

Question: Yesterday it was talked about ADB holding their annual conference in Gujarat. Could you please elaborate on it?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: It was mentioned here but in the context of overall relationship with Africa because African Development Bank doesn’t concern here, it sit somewhere else. As you know that we are a minority shareholder in African Development Bank and every bank has its annual conference or the annual meeting where all the board of governors come and meet i.e. basically it is the shareholders meeting of the bank which will be held in Ahmedabad from 19 – 24 May, 2017. Along with it we are expecting 10 or 12 Heads of State and Heads of Government also visiting and our Prime Minister will be inaugurating it. On the sidelines there would be a number of bilaterals with the African leaders but we are also trying to see if we could do other side events where we could present India’s capabilities in areas which are of interest to them.

Their interest are which they call High Five which according to the policy of African Development Bank are focused in the areas of agriculture, health, education etc. In addition there would be our own initiative of International Solar Alliance and we will be doing a presentation on that and the Solar Alliance document would be placed there for signature. We now have got 25 signatures which is sufficient enough to get it implemented and get into force but since there were 121 co-sponsors in November. So all the countries that have completed their formalities for signature will have an opportunity to sign that in Ahmedabad.

For the African Development Bank we will do a separate curtain raiser for all of you both by the MEA and the Department of Economic Affairs which is the nodal ministry organizing it so you will get to know what we are doing in terms of India Africa relationship. For the people who are more economically oriented they would also get to know what would be the agenda for meeting and what are we looking at, how we are looking at expanding our cooperation with African Development Bank etc.

Speaker 1: Thank you Sir. With this we conclude the media briefing. Thank you all for joining us.

(Concludes)

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